patterns and their names

excerpt from the book ‘UKILI – Plaiting in Zanzibar’ by Antje Förstle

The patterns collected for this publication represent the current pool

of patterns available on the islands of Zanzibar and Mafia, as well as

the coast of mainland Tanzania. Some of them are exceptionally popular,

and the practiced eye will recognize their repetitions. But others are

much rarer, some of which might eventually disappear altogether from

daily use.

All patterns have specific names which may be identical across regions,

whereas sometimes, their names might differ greatly from one region

to another. What might be called tibu (the perfume) in one region might

be called mguu wa simba (the lion’s paw) in another. Some names

speak for themselves while the meaning of others is difficult to decipher.

The weavers then only say “it’s just a name.” Often, these are older

patterns which might have their origin in a region with a different dialect.

Some patterns’ names allow a glimpse into the history and development

of the country, for example names such as ‘soldier’s buttons’ or ‘the bicycle

pedal’. A pattern that evolved later, ‘the bra’s buckle’, is often said with

a giggle, the hand covering the mouth.


21 Magoti The knees    22 Bomba The water pipe   23 F   24 Khalfia A naughty woman   25 Bakora ya kitao A stick like the hem around the bottom of a dress   26 Bakora A walking stick   27 Kidema The fish trap   28 Mkufu The bracelet   29 Mikufu miwili Two bracelets   30 Kijinu The small mortar   31 Ngisi The squid   32 Njugu The peanut  33 Kibao cha sindiria The bra’s buckle


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